Mrs. Kim Harper
23 March 2015
Change in the Winkle of an Eye “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving, is a fictional story published in 1819, based off European legend about a man who escapes his nagging wife by going hunting. He falls into a deep sleep, and then awakens twenty years later to find that everything has changed. “Rip Van Winkle” is a tale so popular and universally known that the key themes are relatable to a wide variety of individuals, including adults and children. Through Irving’s playful tone, imagery, and symbolism, Rip Van Winkle’s rediscovery of himself and happiness after a long disappearance can be found again. Van Winkle was thought of as a happy fellow, although he highly doubted his own character when he awoke from his lengthy time of napping. One could say that Van Winkle was a submissive man, but he also had many other striking characteristics. He was quite the sincere and genuine person, constantly ready to lend a helping hand to those who needed it. Maybe Van Winkle’s personality and characteristics play an active part in him being one of the only citizens from before the Revolutionary War. In the beginning of the story, he was a kind man that kept to his own, and only had one reason to flee his home. Rip returned into a whole new life, complete with advances and progress that he never assumed possible. One of few that were still enjoying the spontaneity of life from the pre-Revolutionary period. According to Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle was “one of those happy mortals of foolish, well-oiled dispositions, who take the world easy, eat white bread or brown, whichever can be got with least thought or trouble, and would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound”(533). Van Winkle was one of the few people that had acquired a “go with the flow” mindset due to pre-Revolutionary life. Although the people of the village loved him, children and adults alike, Van Winkle had one problem with life. That problem led him to abandon his family, his home, and his farm in order to find peace somewhere in the Catskill Mountains. The problem that kept him from enjoying the good things in life was the obnoxious sound of his nagging wife and the only thing that kept him sane was his companion dog Wolf. The reader knows this characteristic of Dame Van Winkle by Irving’s statement “A termagant wife may, therefore, in some respects, be considered a tolerable blessing; and if so, Rip Van Winkle was thrice blessed” (532). Times were different before the American Revolution. Van Winkle was said to be quite a lazy man, although he made it work. He was known to neglect even his own farm and home. Most of the things he did, or didn’t do, was because of the nagging welcome he would receive from his wife as he returned home. On the subject of laziness according to Irving, “It could not be for the want of assiduity or perseverance; for he would sit on a wet rock, with a rod as long and heavy as a Tartar’s lance, and fish all day without a murmur, even though he should not be encouraged by a single nibble”(532).
As a man that was slightly outdated upon returning from the 20 year long mountainous adventure, Rip Van Winkle, needed assistance in adapting to this new world that was not too welcoming. According to Robert A. Ferguson, “Lovable Rip trumps irresponsible Rip only because he is taken care of. Vulnerable and out of control on his return, he needs help. All ends well because other people decide to come to his aid, but their decision is notably complex and a close call” (530). When Van Winkle returned to this new world, he had quite a few questions going through his mind. Also, his tattered clothing and his long beard was enough to think he was either mad or homeless. After revealing that he came in peace, he began communicate with the people of the town in order to discover what event had occurred that was the reason for all of the change and disorder. If it wasn’t for Van…